Restoring a local treasure
After eleven years of hard work from the Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust (SCBPT), restoration work finally started at Severndroog Castle on Monday 10 June 2013. SCBPT welcomed Hilton Abbey Ltd as the restoration contractor. Hilton Abbey won the contract after a detailed tendering competition. They were a local firm and were experts in heritage restoration, having previously worked on The Royal Observatory and The Queen’s House in Greenwich. Work on the latter was highly commended by the Painting and Decorating Association.
The scaffolding and fences were a welcome sight after many long and frustrating years trying to get to this stage. Building works were expected to take about six months. The Trust was then aiming to open the Castle to the public in early 2014.
The building had survived 25 years of neglect and minimal maintenance, despite this the basic structure of the Castle was sound. In general there had been a deterioration of internal finishes including detached and missing joinery and defective plasterwork. Decorations were in poor condition and finishes generally had been marked by a bird infestation. Externally, doors had been damaged as a result of vandalism and many of the windows needed overhauling.
The plan was to open the restored tower four days per week, giving access to a viewing platform at the top of the Castle, making it available for educational visits, community use, and for private hire. The Trust aimed then as it does now to make the Castle self-financing.
Head of HLF London, Sue Bowers explained, “This project will help to realise the potential of this unusual building as a visitor attraction that will serve as a focal point, not only for studying the natural landscape but also for heritage education”.
Chairman of the Trust Barry Gray said, “This funding is excellent news – a testament to the strength of feeling in the area about this unique building… We are delighted the HLF recognise Severndroog Castle needs saving for future generations.”
The restored building would provide for the following proposed uses:
• Education for all ages: children, elderly people and people with learning disabilities.
• An exhibition about the Castle and its history.
• Visits to see the view from each story and from the roof.
• A focus for walkers and wildlife visits.
• Light refreshments served indoors and outdoors.
• Private hiring for weddings, functions and meetings.
The castle had been opened to the public by the GLC (Greater London Council) in 1922. But when the GLC was abolished and the London Borough of Greenwich took ownership in 1986, the castle sadly closed to the public.
In 2002, Greenwich Council proposed to lease Severndroog Castle to a property developer; this was the beginning of the SCBPT (Severndroog Castle Building Preservation Trust) led by a group of local people determined not to let developers ruin the building. The group have campaigned tirelessly to restore the castle to its former glory with the generous help of donations from the public and various organisations, and a lot of hard work.
The Castle has finally been restored and opened its doors again to the public on 20th July 2014.